Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to have a floor vote Feb. 8 on the first part of an envisioned multi-bill jobs package, he told reporters at a Feb. 4 press conference.
Reid said Democrats hope to gain some Republican support for that measure, but if not, "We will lay [a bill] down ourselves," he added.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said, "This is a good-faith offer on the Democratic side. We are inviting our friends on the Republican side to join us--bring your best ideas forward."
The lawmakers did not spell out how much funding the first bill--or the total package--would contain.
Details did not appear to be completely nailed down yet, but it seems that the first bill would include an extension of the surface-transportation authorization. The highway and transit programs' authorization has been running under short stopgaps since Sept. 30, with the latest extension set to expire Feb. 28.
Earlier, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) had said the planned transportation extension would run through Dec. 31 and would include additional funding to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent. The fund is estimated to need $9 billion by about August.
A second provision of Senate Democrats' first jobs bill deals with Build America Bonds, which were established under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The program provides a federal interest-rate subsidy for state and local governments that seek to float bonds to finance roads, water and sewer facilities, courthouses and other public buildings, and schools.
The program now applies to bonds issued before Jan.1, 2011. The Senate Democrats provided no details about what the new bill's bond provision would entail.
Democrats emphasized that they were seeking to help small businesses, a sector that is credited with generating a large share of overall U.S. jobs. Thus, their first installment of the legislative package includes a tax credit for companies that add new workers to their payrolls in 2010. It also would allow small businesses to write off the costs of capital equipment.
The first bill also would extend unemployment and COBRA health benefits. Some of those benefits are scheduled to lapse Feb. 28, according to the AFL-CIO.
"We will move immediately on some issues," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). "And then we will keep going on different issues as we go through the year, but with a laser-like focus on jobs...."
Democrats' "jobs agenda" also includes unspecified spending on transportation, schools, water infrastructure and economic-development grants. But that spending doesn't appear to be in line to be included in the first bill Reid and his colleagues bring forward.